Self-Rising Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour

By: Bob's Red Mill | April 27 2018

self rising flour vs. all purpose flour infographic

There are a large number of different varieties of flour available in stores today. At most groceries, you can find anything and everything, ranging from coconut flour to tapioca flour, to corn flour, to almond flour, and more.

In the case of wheat flour, there are different varieties within the wheat family as well. However, keep in mind that with wheat-based flour, all types contain different percentages of gluten and protein.

These percentages are what make one type of flour ideal for one recipe, and another type ideal for another recipe. The most commonly sold wheat flour in grocery stores is refined white flour.

This refined white flour is basically wheat flour that has been leached of much of its nutritional value and sometimes bleached. Unfortunately, this makes white flour only a nominal source of fiber and other nutritional goodies, although it’s still great for making baked goods and to use while cooking.

White flour is sold as both self-rising flour and all purpose flour, and it’s common to get the two a little confused. Though all flour is a “wheat” product, in the case of white flour, during the refinement process the bran and the germ are removed, leaving only the endosperm of the wheat kernel behind.

Removing the bran and the germ greatly reduces the fiber content of the flour. Healthy fats, phytochemical, and antioxidants are also removed.

The upside, though, is that by removing the germ, you can greatly increase the shelf life of the flour. By grinding the endosperm into a fine powder, you get a flour that can be turned into all- purpose flour or rising flour with the addition of a leavening agent. It can then be used for a wide variety of cooking and baking purposes.

What Is All-Purpose Flour?

cinnamon rolls

All purpose flour is probably the most versatile wheat flour you can find on the shelves and can be used for general use. When milling all purpose flour, both soft wheat and hard wheat (containing more gluten) are milled or ground together. The end result contains about 10-12 percent protein, which is a moderate range making all purpose flour useful for various recipes ranging from pizza, bread, cookies, biscuits, muffins, and more. If a recipe simply says “use flour,” you can be reasonably sure it’s asking for all purpose flour. It’s used in just about everything, from fluffy biscuits to chewy bread and flaky pie crusts. All purpose flour can also be used as a coating for meats and veggies, and as a thickening agent in sauces, gravies, and soups.

Because a lot of the nutrition is stripped from the flour in the production process, it is “enriched,” or has nutrients added back into it. Usually, these are nutrients like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. Some all purpose flours are also bleached (although Bob’s Red Mill’s is not), which is the process that also whitens the flour.

Though all wheat has gluten, all purpose flour doesn’t have as much gluten as bread flour. Gluten levels can also vary by brand, which is why someone who does a lot of baking may find a certain brand they like to use and stick with that one.

Since gluten is the ingredient that gives dough elasticity, allowing it to stretch and bubble up with gas, flour that doesn’t contain a higher level of gluten (like all purpose flour) is not ideal for bread-making or other recipes where the dough must rise.

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What Is Self-Rising Flour?

If you want to make muffins, pancakes, or tender biscuits, rising flour is your jam. Like all-purpose flour, self-rising flour is made from wheat, although it’s a wheat that is low in protein. Self-rising flour is a staple in the South, as the low-protein wheat it is made from originates there.

what is self rising flour infographic

Also like all-purpose flour, self-rising flour is enriched with added nutrition. It also contains salt and baking powder that has been distributed evenly throughout the flour and acts as a leavening agent.

This raising agent helps dough to rise without having to add yeast. You should only use self-rising flour as a substitute for other types of flour very carefully, due to the leavening effect. If you aren’t careful, you may not end up with the desired result. The same goes for using all purpose flour if your recipe calls for self-rising. Bottom line: if you use the wrong one or haven’t modified your recipe to account for self-rising flour, your baked goods may not come out as expected.

You can modify and use all purpose flour as self-rising flour if you add baking powder and salt to give it a leavening effect. A general measurement rule is for every cup of all purpose flour, add a teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the mix.

Do not add baking powder to flour that is already labeled as self-rising., Also, keep in mind that self-rising flour won’t last as long on the shelf as all purpose flour. After about six months or so, its rising action begins to peter out.helpful tips for determining what type of flour to use

What Is Self-Rising Flour Used For?

Some self-rising flour recipes include simple, three-ingredient biscuits or pancakes, especially if you like them thick and fluffy. You can also use self-rising flour to make muffins, certain types of bread, pizza dough, and even delicious, Southern “Fat Bread.”

What Is All Purpose Flour Used For?

Some all purpose flour recipes include everything from casseroles and soups to baked treats and fried foods. You can even use all purpose flour for things like biscuits and certain breads when you add a leavening agent like baking soda and salt.

While all purpose flour can’t be used in every recipe, it is a kitchen staple that can be used in most recipes, which is what has earned it the moniker of “all purpose.”

uses for self rising flour vs. all purpose flour infographic

Other Types of Flours

There are a variety of baking flours on the market, although rising flour and all- purpose flour are considered the most common and most widely available. Here is a short list of other types of wheat flours you can find as well, depending on the store:

Bread Flour

different types of bread loaves

Bread flour is considered the strongest out of all types of flour and contains about 12-14 percent protein, which is what helps give flour structural support when making dough. This type of structural support is very important with yeast-based breads, in order to contain the gases that are produced in the fermenting process. Extra protein not only makes for chewier bread with a browner crust, it also gives bread more volume.

Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour is similar to white flour in processing, except the germ and bran are added back into the flour in varying amounts. The bran and germ both hinder the gluten formation in whole wheat flour, despite its high protein count.

This results in heavier, denser baked goods. Also keep in mind that because the germ and bran are both present, whole wheat flour has a shorter shelf life than white flour, approximately three months.

Pastry Flour

Pastry flour is made from wheat with protein levels at about 8-9 percent. This makes the wheat softer and results in baked goods that are more tender and flaky. This makes pastry flour the go-to choice when it comes to making things like tarts, pie crust, and certain types of cookies.

Cake Flour

Cake flour has the lowest levels of protein out of all the flours, containing just 7-9 percent. The lack of protein means there is very little ability for gluten formation, which makes it a perfect choice for baked goods that need to be soft and tender, like cakes, scones, muffins, and even biscuits.

Gluten Free Flour

Finally, there is gluten free flour. Because so many people are sensitive to gluten today, there are a wide selection of gluten free flours and gluten free products to choose from. All are made from different types of nuts, grains, and starches, instead of wheat. Rice flour is a popular choice, often blended with potato and tapioca starch.

Sometimes xanthan gum is added to mimic the chewiness that is usually created by the presence of gluten. While it’s not an exact science, there are plenty of recipes that you can modify with gluten free flour in lieu of wheat flour and achieve delicious results, or make it easy by trying our gluten free 1-1 baking flour.

other types of wheat flour infographic

As you can see, flour can be tricky business! But it doesn’t have to be. When it comes to self-rising flour vs all purpose flour, there is no clear winner. Both types of flours can be used successfully for many different recipes and baked goods, tt just may require a bit of tweaking and some trial and error to achieve the textures and flavors you are looking for.

Because white flour is so readily available and cost-effective, it just doesn’t make sense not to experiment with both varieties and see what works best. Your results might surprise you, in a good way!


How to Make Self-Rising Flour


  1. Eric Fleegler
    Quick note - above you have written "You can modify and use all purpose flour as self-rising flour if you add baking soda and salt to give it a leavening effect. A general measurement rule is for every cup of all purpose flour, add a teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the mix." I think you accidentally wrote baking soda in the first line and meant baking powder
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Good catch, Eric. Thank you - it's been updated!
  2. Lee Hollingshed
    Does the 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt also go for whole wheat flour? Thanks, Lee
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Lee, you would only want to use All Purpose Flour when making your own Self Rising Flour. Whole Wheat would likely be too heavy for those types of recipes.
  3. xen
    I have a recipe for cake that ask for combination of self raising flour and all purpose flour.. but i noticed it doest really rise enough relying on self raising flour. if i will combine a cup of all purpose and a cup of self raising flour, would it be safe to add a little bit of baking powder (like a teaspoon to support for the all purpose flour combined in the recipe?
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi! Yes, adding baking powder will help the cake rise. Though convenient, the trouble with self-rising flour is that you don't know how much baking powder or baking soda is already in the mix. It might work well it muffins, but not be quite enough to help a full cake rise. If you need further help, our Customer Service team is happy to help. They can be reached at 1-800-349-2173 or [email protected]
      1. Ann Carruthers
        If you’re using self rising and a recipe calls for all purpose. Do you omit the bp and salt?
        1. Elisabeth Allie
          That would depend on the specific recipe you're using! You could calculate approximately how much salt/baking powder is present in the self rising flour and supplement as needed!
  4. EricJM
    I like to make Quick Breads with Self-Rising flours (usually instructed in the recipe). However, a few recipes have stated that I should not substitute All-Purpose Flour if making my own SR Flour because AP has higher protein than Self-Rising and therefore I will not get the rise I want because AP will be to "heavy" or "dense," and instead use Pastry or Cake flours. This really confused me because almost every site I've ever checked says to use All-Purpose (including this site). I would hate for my Quick Breads to not rise, so do you have any insight into this opinion? At this point I have always just used the SR flour and never made a substitute, but as we are living through more difficult times, sometimes certain ingredients are not available in stores, so I may not have a choice. Would it be better to go with Pastry Flour? None of my SR flours list protein content (even on their websites), but the reference seems to suggest it's lower than what is in AP.
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Eric - Pastry Flours are slightly lower in protein than All Purpose Flour. This would give a softer, lighter crumb to your baked goods. That is not to say that All Purpose would not yield a light crumb, they just differ in protein percentage by about 2-3%. Both Pastry Flour and All Purpose Flour would be suitable for making your own self-rising flour. I unfortunately don't have information about other brands' protein content; I'd suggest making a small batch with both and testing your recipe side by side for a direct comparison. Happy baking!
  5. Elmer Oltmann
    I have a recipe that calls for all-purpose flour and yeast. Could I substitute self-rising flour instead?
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Elmer! No, I would instead recommend starting with a recipe that instead calls for self-rising flour to ensure good results.
  6. Dail Davis
    If a recipe calls for “flour “ how do you know which one to use?
    1. Sarena Shasteen
      If a recipe simply says flour, it is typically referring to All Purpose Flour. Self rising, bread or cake flour will always be specified in the recipe.
  7. Loo Paik Lee
    I have difficulties making scones that are soft and fluffy and raise to double in size like in the receipt said. I used self raising flour. Could it be that I was using the wrong flour?
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi! It could be multiple factors. Scones specifically use a high percentage of baking powder to create their signature texture and you may need to add more than what's already in your self-rising flour. It could also have to do with the oven temperature or ingredients. If you're not achieving the results you want, I'd suggest you switch to All Purpose Flour and add baking powder/soda as written in the recipe. With self-rising flour you do not have control over how much baking powder/soda is in the mixture as it's pre-mixed.
  8. Linda Lepore
    I use your gluten free 1:1 all purpose flour in the blue bag. I need self rising flour for a muffin recipe. Is it the same conversion like regular flour? Do I add 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt?
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Linda - Yes, that would work! Happy baking :)
  9. Kim tran
    What type of flour do I need to make hum bao?
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Whitney Barnes
      Hi Kim - All Purpose Flour would work great for that type of dough.
  10. Vicki
    Does Bob's RM make self-rising flour?
    1. Ashley Morris
      Hi Vicki, we do not currently offer a self-rising flour.

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